New Study Suggests Violent Video Game Releases Coincide with Low Crime Rates

Quick one today folks! Another week, another article claiming that violent video games have X effect on society. There seems to be a pendulum with these types of studies; one article will claim to have found a link between violent video games and violence and the following week another new study will claim that there is no effect. This study is..a little different.

Coming out of Villanova, a psychology researcher and professor claims that violent video games actually lessen the amount of violent crimes during launch periods of bigger violent video games (Halo, GTA, etc). Are the villains of the world really too busy ranking up gamerscores to go and commit crimes? That’s pretty much what it sounds like the piece is claiming. Essentially, violent crime offenders are among the target audience who plays violent video games and when a new title comes out the amount of violent crimes seems to decrease.

There can be other explanations as to why this is occurring that we can ponder off the top of our heads. Big titles like GTA and Halo typically come out at towards the end of the year, as that’s many company’s biggest earning season. Certainly something else may be going on during these times that have little to do with video games (More people are in their houses earlier in the night, police enforcement is typically more alert for crimes during holiday seasons, etc). The article itself tries to think through what potential reasons could be effecting this outcome, so it’s certainly not a definitive statement on the researcher’s part.

The research goes onto claim that people with specific personality types playing violent video games are more likely to increase their aggression, but that people without those personality types will not be effected These are claims that were based on research that was conducted years ago by the same researcher. These proposed claims seem almost obvious; if you claim yourself to be an “angry person” then you committing a violent crime is more likely, regardless of if you play video games or not.

Which of Pixar characters are most likely to commit a violent crime after playing Halo?

I wish I could go more into the article, but unfortunately I’m not able to get the entire piece because I’m a poor individual, but you can certainly purchase the entire research paper here! 

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Frisco Looks To Be Nation’s First Video Game Museum

http://www.polygon.com/2014/9/21/6742881/videogame-history-museum-location-national-frisco

HEY. RAILROAD MUSEUM, MOVE OVER. Video games need a museum!

Frisco (TX) is looking to invest in the nation’s first museum dedicated solely to video games. The Video Game History Museum, which up to this point has only been a traveling exhibit, is seeking a place to call home. This week The Board of The Frisco Community Development Corporation approved the museum, which means we may soon see  the VGHM up and running. This is great news for anyone interested in video games, history, or museums (Everyone know those people).

Why should we care? Toys have museums. Even cartoons. The fact that video games, which now make up a large part of media consumed, do not yet have a museum is pretty astounding. Promoting and maintaining video game history legitimizes and documents video games in a way that has yet to be previously done. Without proper documentation and preservation, there’s plenty of history that can be lost to time. As we have discussed in previous articles, video games are a medium that can literally see aspects disappear because of hardware limitations. Being a digital medium means that once the data for specific games are lost, they may be lost forever. Piracy, currently, has been one of the few ways games have remained in existence, which itself is horribly ironic.

We’ve seen digital video game museum’s in the past, including IGN’s Mario museum and Sonic Team’s interactive museum world in “Sonic Jam”, but a physical place to go and observe video game’s history is the next step in the development of Video game history and preservation.

In Sonic Jam players can view a digital history of the franchise without curators and volunteers lurking around.

For anyone who is interested, you should head over to the VGHM’s website.

GamerGate: Resources and Perspective

I’ve been in the dark about all of these #Gamergate going ons, so my apologies for not having written about what’s been going on.

What is Gamergate?

I don’t want to get into the specific individuals involved of the controversy, as I don’t know how fruitful it is to continuously bring up the individuals Gamergate was founded on, but it’s important to talk about how it came about. Gamergate is an ongoing controversy in which gamers are lashing back against the lack of journalistic standards in the gaming media and corruption in competitive gaming and gaming media. It arose out of a scandal involving a developer of an indie game who was allegedly having  relationships with noteworthy individuals in the gaming media that may have led to  cases of favoritism and bias in coverage of her game. Details about the female developer were leaked to the internet and gamers have responded via the hashtag on twitter #Gamergate. Since then, it has involved to include issues of feminist theory polarizing indie developers and fans and, as well, the backlash against equality in the gaming industry.

That’s an incredibly basic and unexplored synopsis of what’s been going on. It’s an extremely complicated issue that has seen poor acts on both sides on the issue. At its heart is a legitimate issue: the lack of standards in video game journalism. However, it has lost sight of that issue in many circumstances.

I don’t want to say much more about it, other than it was a issue that was a long time coming and that it will hopefully lead to changes in the industry and video game community. It’s a chance for gamers to take a stand on what they’re willing and not willing to put up, which should certainly be fair standards and absolutely no use of harassment, regardless of if you’re in the community or in the media.

Resources that I recommend for a fair representation of the issue:

Leigh Alexander’s “Gamers are over” article: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/2…s_are_over.php

David Auerbach’s response “Gaming Journalism is Over”: http://www.slate.com/articles/techno…_but_they.html

L. Rhodes’s article “To fair-minded proponents of #GamerGate”: https://medium.com/@upstreamism/to-f…e-7f3ce77301bb

Sony is Offering a “Playstation Class” at a Korean University

“Hey kids, get off those video games and do your homework!”

“But Dad! These video games ARE our homework”

That’s the dream for many young kids, and it seems like that dream just may come true, at least for some lucky college kids in Korea. Sony has partnered with Sangmyung University Seoul to bring the first ever Playstation college course focusing on the development and branding of Sony Playstation products and games. As seen in the picture, Sony has created unique desks for the students, each with their very own Dualshock 4 and PS Vita. Is this insane? Yeah, kind of

The class, which started today, is said to have weekly lecturers come in and speak about different facets of the video game industry. Will it be worthwhile? Will it make participants live and breathe Sony products? Time will tell. Next week’s guest lecturer is Kratos, who will tell you about how to kill Gods.

It’s certainly is a forward thinking tactic on Sony’s part to jump on the next wave of video game developers. With so many universities and schools beginning to include  video game design programs or classes at their school, it’s not that surprising that a major company has decided to invest in the next generation of developers. With the industry on the rise, getting the best and brightest students will be important for many companies. Still, I can’t help but think it’s pretty heavy handed; one look at the classroom an I can’t imagine the class is going to be very objective to the industry as a whole. However, it’s positive to see video game get their rightful place in the academic world, sponsored by Sony or not.

It’s still better than Sega’s attempt in the 90s in which Sonic indoctrinated children via a staff and student populations made up primarily nightmare inducing animals.

Check out GaminginAsia’s piece for more details!

Review: “Video Games The Movie”

Or more appropriately titled “Video Games The Documentary”. Amidst the number of summer movies that were released this summer, this one seemingly went under the radar beneath all of those transmorphers, ninja frogs, and earth defenders. I finally had a chance to sit down and view the film for myself, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it as both a representation of video game history and culture.

Written and directed by Jeremy Snead and executive produced by Zach Braff, the film was released this summer digitally and in select theaters. The film seeks to give a history of the video game industry and discuss some of the issues concerning it. Coming in at 105 minutes, the movie certainly has a lot to cover in a short amount of time. The result? A disjointed film that takes on more than it can handle. That sounds harsh, but the film is certainly more ambitious than it delivers on. It seemingly has all the elements: great industry professionals ranging from Reggie to Cliffy B, a relatively strong budget, and a wealth of information they could focus on.  Unfortunately the film seems more like a introductory to everything video game related, without any particular focus or time spent on one subject enough to develop it. An introductory to the video game community would be fine, but even as that it misses a lot of beats. Right away anyone who knows anything about video games will notice that the film speeds through over 30 years of history in nearly 10 minutes. It then goes from topic to topic without any real focus, sometimes even returning to add more about certain aspects of video game history that, because of its progression, feels unorganized. This isn’t to say that the other segment beyond history aren’t compelling, in fact the film even touches on how video games are reshaping the way people interact and develop (Hey! that’s what I talk about on here!), but unfortunately these compelling aspects are as rushed as the history provided.The rest of the film touches on some of the major debates in the video game industry, such as the effects of violent video games, but only provides one narrative to them. There’s absolutely no counter points in this documentary, the argument seems to be “video games are great!” but doesn’t allow for the opposition to even chime in.

With plenty of other  better documentaries out there focusing on specific aspects of video game culture or history (Indie Game The Movie, Second Skin, Chasing Ghosts, etc) this one feels like it just took bits and pieces from each and tried to patch it into one film. What this means is that significant chunks of video game history get left out for the sake of other aspects that really could of been left out. If you’re going to tell us the history of the industry: do that! Don’t rush it and then move onto another topic in 20 minutes. WE NEED FOCUS. Also, just as gripe, the film also features interviews from numerous actors and celebreties that really don’t add anything worthwhile besides “LOOK AT THIS CELEB WHO PLAYS GAMES”, especially compared to the industry professionals featured in the film.

“LOOK AT THIS CELEB. SHE PLAYS EM. AIN’T IT COOL!”

In an already short documentary that’s rushing things, despite being 105 minutes, we really don’t need 10 of those minutes given to celebrities talking about something they only vaguely know about.

To sum up, the industry deserves a better representation than this documentary. The film aimed at informing the mass population about the history of video games but will only serve to give them a taste of the real history. For the rest of us who actually anything about the video game industry, don’t waste your time, it may be for the best that this flew under the radar.

New Study Finds Risk Glorifying Games Lead to Deviant Behavior

A recent study suggests that playing mature rated video games may lead to risky, deviant behavior including alcohol use and cigarette smoking. OH HEAVENS!!!

Coming out of Dartmouth College and published this week in the American Psychological Association Journal is a 4-year spanned study that focuses on the effects of violent and mature rated video games on adolescent adults. Are violent video game the gateway drug to worse things, including buying gates and/or drugs? 

The researchers contacted a pool of over 5000 young adults multiple times over the span of 4 years and focused on the three video games “Manhunt”, “Spider-man 2” and “Grand Theft Auto”. Although the respondents fell to less than half of the original 5000, over 2000 subjects were interviewed for the effects of having played one of these three games and continued to play similar risk glorifying games. The researchers found that respondents who played risk glorifying games with an anti-social protagonists (Manhunt and GTA in this case) had reported higher rates of cigarette use, and similar patterns were found for other forms of delinquency than those who reported only have played games with honorable protagonists (Spider-man). 

Honorable.

Jay Hull, the lead researcher, concludes that playing risk glorifying video games increases the likelihood of performing risky actions in the real world. As Hull puts it

“[In video games]They’re not practicing drinking and smoking and risky sex, but what they are practicing is being a less than good person,”.

We’ve seen similar studies where violent video games have been linked to aggression, cheating, and other less honorable behavior, but this might be the first one I’ve seen linked to risky sex..I don’t know how to take that. Likewise, we have seen studies that suggest positive benefits to violent and all video games in general, so the debate seems to be all over the place.The thought behind why this is occurring is that playing violent and risk glorifying games makes kids more willing to take risks in their own life:

“Once a kid is trying one substance, the odds of trying another one go up…The risk starts piling up much faster, and the outcomes for these children get much worse in a hurry.”

 

Eh…that’s no good. The researcher endorses the use of the ESRB rating system as a form to combat adolescents from getting their hands on these games prematurely.

I don’t know what to think about this study, as it seems pretty well constructed. Obviously the study is reliant on the respondents to tell the truth and gauge their effects, but I can’t think of a more developed way to do so. There may some causes that are effecting the respondents that the study doesn’t take into consideration, such as reasons for why adolescents are getting their hands on violent video games before becoming of age. For example, I can imagine parents who buy their children a spider-man game (regardless of its ESRB rating) may not be the same level of attentiveness as a parent who is okay buy and M rated GT game….but that could be neither here nor there.

The study itself is, unfortunately, only available to those who subscribe to the  APA’s website, but a decent explanation of the study can be found here. 

Racist Games: Street Fighter 2

heIt’s time once again to look through the library of video games and examine some of the good ol’ fun themes of racism in some of our favorite and least favorite games. Today’s racist game is one of the most well known games in video game history: Street Fighter 2.

I know what you’re saying: “Hey! Eff you man! Leave Street Fighter 2 alone! That game rocks!”. Fair enough, hypothetical person responding to this blog. Street Fighter 2 is a great game that undeniably revolutionized the fighting game genre and had a huge impact on video game history. That said, it’s a little bit racist. Like “Punch-Out!” Street Fighter 2 falls into the category of games that were unintentionally racist for the sake of having characters from around the world. The game undeniably relies of stereotypes and bizarre caricatures of different countries and peoples. Let’s look at some of these nationally accurate characters!

Zangief : Zangief is Russian. What do Russian people do? Wrestle bears, of course. Also, they do that one dance; you know the one that all Russian people do. Zangief’s ending literally features Zangief dancing with, then president, Mikhail Gorbachev.

You won’t see George Bush in Guile’s ending

Dhalsim: Dhalsim is from India. Things the developers knew about India include that Yoga is popular, Elephants are a plenty, and Hinduism is a strange and mystical religion. In Dhalsim’s ending in the game, he rides a elephant back to home! Everyone in India has a pet Elephant!

Balrog: Balrog is the only black character in the game. Haling from the United States, Balrog shares a striking resemblance to Mike Tyson and is even a boxer! Also, in the original Japanese version Balrog was named M.Bison, which clearly is a play on the aforementioned ear biter.

Upon beating the game and becoming world champion, Balrog retires to a life of luxury, and in some versions, white women!

 

Other Fun tidbits of racism from Street Fighter 2

-The Americans in the game all seemingly have fabulous lives, where as many of the other characters are pretty poor and destitute. Guile, for example, is a military hero!

– Vega is from Spain. People from Spain all love Flamenco and are Vain, or so the developers believe.

-Very few countries are represented, and yet Japan and the U.S have multiple characters! The hell!?

Street Fighter is a great game, but it certainly relied heavily on stereotypes to make up its cast of characters. I’m sure the developers didn’t intend to make the game offensive, it’s probably that they just needed to make the characters noticeably different from each other. Future games in the franchise featured more fleshed out characters and relied less on stereotypes and even the original cast is a little less racist these dam. Regardless of its unintentional racism, it’ll still be one game that will forever be a classic…No mater which 1 of the 500 versions of the game you play.

BONUS ROUND OF SEXISM!

Street Fighter had the chance of being one of the most sexist games ever, as some of the original developers actually wanted to give Chun-Lee, the only female character in the game, a shorter life bar because she was a woman.

“You know how each character has a life bar? At one point, I wanted to make the power gauge for Chun-Li shorter than for the other characters because women are not as strong. But [another designer] didn’t want to do that. We both had legitimate reasons, but then we came to an agreement to not make it shorter.”

Oh man, who thought that was a good idea. Oh Capcom.

 

 

Can Video Games Cause You To Hear Sounds After The Game is Off?

I was up late one night trying to get the perfect route in Star Fox 64. I turned off my n64 and retired to my bed. It was then I heard the screams and cries of animals far off in the distance. The sounds of a shot down frog here, the tart responses of a falcon over there; the sounds were more real than my hate for Andross. When I ran to the phone to call for psychiatric help, all I received was this response “DO A BARREL ROLL!”. 

What I was experiencing, in this made up story that would never happen to anyone, is a newly named phenomena called Game Transfer Phenomena. A team coming out Nottingham Trent University is trying to figure out the phenomena of gamers experiencing phantom sounds and noises after turning off their favorite games. These sounds can be anything from music to the sounds of explosions and cries (2SPOOPI3ME) The research suggests that many gamers experience lingering noises and sounds overlaying real life from their games after particularly engrossing play sessions. Having gathered evidence from over 1000 testimonials of gamers who have claimed to witness this phenomena, they claim that nearly 13% of gamers experience this phenomena. Obviously collecting testimonials for forums and from such a low number is only anecdotal, but it is an interesting finding. Earlier in the year we blogged a study that was looking into a similar phenomena that dealt with hallucinations, so there seems to be some backing to the findings. Similar research was apparently done in the mid 90s with the very addictive handheld title “Tetris”.

THERE IS NO NES, ONLY TETRIS.

So should we start expecting to heard phantom banjo strings after playing an engrossing game of Banjo Kazooie? Probably not. It’s really not that unnatural for the brain to replay or responded in different ways after having done any task for an extensive amount of time. If Game Transfer Phenomena is anything, it seems to be the brain dealing with the event from earlier. But what do I know about the brain? Nothing.

What does this have to do with sociology you might ask? Well, not much. But it is interesting that video games may be effecting in ways we never knew they could; biologically and psychologically. Certainly video games are effecting us as a population more than ever.

The Guardian has a better take on this subject, so take a look at their article for real justice to the research. Let us know if you’ve ever heard, seen, or even tasted anything gaming related that shouldn’t have been there. WE WON’T REFER YOU TO A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, I SWEAR.

Polygon’s “No Skin Thick Enough:The daily harassment of women in the game industry”

No Skin Thick Enough

Today Polygon posted this piece on their site. It’s an piece about the myths and realities of harassment against women in the video game industry by Brianna Wu. It features the real life experiences of several women in the gaming industry that have faced harassment and threats from gamers and consumers. I’m not going to try and make any witty comments on this one, you should just read the article. Warning: There is some pretty graphic language in the piece.

These are some pretty harrowing experiences that are laid out in this piece. Being a public figure, especially a female public figure, in the gaming industry is still one that carries a lot of hurdles and hardships. The gaming community is slowing shifting and becoming more and more accepting, but we still have a long way ahead of us. We got some real dicks still out there, and we probably always will, but it is how we as a community respond to these types of actions that make us the community we are. Gamers have to hold up those who are being oppressed in our community, and until we do we’re all failing as a community.

 

Book Review: “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris

We’re back in July with a new type of post! A book review! Wow! Due to my slovenly nature and general  disdain for sitting around and reading, I’ve never had the chance to share my thoughts and opinions on a relevant book here on the blog. THAT CHANGES TODAY, JACK!

Why am I doing this? Because I think my opinion matters? Nope. Because I am some sort of scholar? NOT BLOODY LIKELY. The reason I’m presenting this book review is because I think this type of historical narrative is interesting and worth reading for video game and sociology fans. Although Console Wars isn’t a straight historical account or, by any means, a history book, it tells the real life story of the momentous war between Sega and Nintendo. This company war was a pivotal moment in video game history that changed the industry quite a bit. Through understanding video game history perhaps we can better understand where we’re going.

TLDR: VIDEO GAME HISTORY IS IMPORTANT.

“Console Wars” is the latest book by acclaimed author Blake J. Harris, who is best know for the book and film “Moneyball”.  Here’s a small synopsis of the book for those who are unaware:

In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man who knew nothing about videogames and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat and bold ideas of his renegade employees, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.

 

My thoughts: . Essentially Harris is telling the story of two businesses competing for the video game market. Sounds boring, right? Fortunately, Harris has the exceptional ability of making the mundane palatable. By focusing on specific individuals (primarily Tom Kalinske) Harris makes the narrative less about the historic business tactics that occurred and more about the personal struggle to adjust to mounting demands of working in multinational companies and keeping ahead in a sky rocketing industry. In doing so, the history is broken down in such a way that it feels compelling and almost episodic; you feel for the characters in a way that a traditional historical account wouldn’t be able to convey. These are interesting characters to say the least; they’re trailblazers and huge figures in the video game history  whom many know little to nothing about. Like Moneyball, the book is more about the people than it is products. Likewise, the war between Sega and Nintendo is compelling enough to push the book forward

Half way through the book one would assume that Sega is the David of the story, going against the villain Nintendo. However, the book is never unfair to Nintendo or overly sympathetic to Sega. Obviously, Nintendo and Sega are no longer the same companies they were during the 90s, so it’s important to remember them for the companies they once were; Nintendo really did rule the industry with a power glove. Likewise, Sega is depicted as a company at war with itself, which in many led to its inevitable loss of power in the industry. These are interesting insights about these two companies that people may not know. By the end of the book, you may have a different perspective about these two companies.

Sociological Content wise it’s interesting, but shouldn’t be taken for more than a narrative. Console Wars is in no way a research worthy historical account, but it provides very interesting insight into the culture of the video game industry and the community. The story is an account of the 90s and it in many ways reflects the mindsets and beliefs held by the majority in those years. Video games were a different beast in those days and the book gives readers a unique look back that gamers today may have forgotten or not known about.. 

In all, I’d recommend the book to any gamer looking to learn a little more about the history of video games. I considered myself pretty knowledgeable, especially when it came to the console war between Sega and Nintendo, but the book really takes the reader behind the scenes of these two massive companies in a way that other account do not. It’s honestly a compelling book, even if you’re not directly interested in it for the video game knowledge. It is a lengthy read, but it’s quite worth the read.

“DA DUH DUN!”

Of course, you can also wait for the upcoming film adaptation produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I’m sure it won’t completely translate to film, but if Moneyball is any indication of how Harris translates his books to film it should at least be worth the watch.  That’s it. Book review over. Please give me a passing grade, teach!  Maybe I’ll do more book reviews when I read more books.

Other resources!

Buy Console Wars on Amazon!

Back In My Play Podcast Interview with Blake J. Harris